Welcome to the Achaea Forums! Please be sure to read the Forum Rules.

Crafting Good Item Descriptions: A Guide

JiraishinJiraishin trapped in a thawing block of iceMember Posts: 1,586 @@ - Legendary Achaean

Warning: this guide is so long I had to split it into multiple posts. Read the four questions and explanations below to see if you're interested in reading the rest.

 

WHAT IS THIS?

This is intended as guide to good design practice for clothing, jewellery, and custom artefacts, and as a sort of revision guide for item descriptions in those categories. It is NOT concerned with grammar or the approval process. You can get designs approved while following none of this advice. It is also not about cooking design practices, because I don't think I'm qualified to give advice on that. Also, THERE WILL BE NO DISCUSSION OF COMMAS.

 

DID ANYONE ASK FOR YOUR ADVICE?

No, and I do realize that.

 

WHY DID YOU MAKE THIS?

Because I like wandering around shops and looking at all the cool things people make, and because I think I can be helpful in this regard. I work as an editor IRL, and have been crafting things in Achaea for nearly a decade. It's a learning process. I have a word document which has my designs from the very start, and a lot of them are flat-out terrible. My newer ones are better, but I'm sure I'll look back on them someday and wince.

 

IS THERE A TL;DR?

Sort of/not really. If you're interested in these design tips but your eyes are starting to water considering the sheer length of this guide (mine are, and I wrote the thing), I'd suggest just reading the 'Things to Do' list below and skipping the 'Things to Avoid' section. It's a lot shorter and you'll get -some- of the same things from it. However, I do very strongly recommend reading the Things to Avoid, in installments if necessary. There is a lot of detail in there.

 

So, without further ado...


________________________
The soul of Ashmond says, "Always with the sniping."
AdaRyzanGarnerHalos
«1

Comments

  • JiraishinJiraishin trapped in a thawing block of iceMember Posts: 1,586 @@ - Legendary Achaean

    THINGS TO AVOID


    1. Cliches. This is fairly self-explanatory , but I still recommend rereading your designs before you submit to get rid of lazy writing. I've definitely been guilty of using clichés unthinkingly. They are, as Terry Pratchett once put it, the hammers in the toolbox of language. Please avoid hitting people over the head if you don't absolutely have to.

     

    2. Overused descriptors. This requires a bit more explanation than #1.

    For whatever reason, there are a few words and phrases that crop up in Achaean design over and over and over again. I'd give the dubious award for "absolute most overused" to 'subtle elegance'/'subtly elegant', with 'stygian' taking second place (especially in Mhaldorian designs, oh my god) and 'sanguine' bringing up third. There's a frigging BRIDGE in Targossas that has 'subtle elegance' in its description. And yes, I've been guilty of using the phrase too, more than once. These days I make a conscious effort to avoid it.

     

    'Elegance' is also overused, but used sparingly it's a useful descriptor. If something is 'subtly elegant', I strongly recommend you drop 'subtly'. For 'stygian' and 'sanguine', switch in basically any other synonym for 'dark' and 'red', respectively... or consider just using 'dark' and 'red'.

     

    3. Calling things 'simple' or 'subtle' when they aren't. This is a pet peeve of mine. I know there is an element of subjectivity here, but if you have a piece of silk with a detailed scene embroidered on it in purple and gold, it is neither simple nor subtle. Think carefully about the adjectives you use and if they actually fit the item you're describing.

     

    4. Overused materials: If you are creating a custom artefact, I strongly recommend using a material other than mithril, and I especially recommend against making your item primarily from mithril. For a supposedly rare, magical metal there is a ridiculous amount of it in circulation.

     

    Mhaldorian tailors: I know mhun-skin is traditional, but there's such a large number of player and admin created mhun-skin items that new ones seem like overkill. If I were still Mhaldorian, I'd strongly consider skinning Achilles' decapitated corpse next time he got killed on the Isle and making some classy xoran-leather handbags for a change. Like alligator, but sapient!

     

    Tailors of all allegiances: not everything has to be silk. It's a wonderful material and I both like designing with it in game and wish I could afford it in real life, but not consider mixing it up sometimes. And yes, nearly all of my earliest tailoring designs were silk. I'm not proud of it but here we are.

     

    On a related note, if you -do- craft something from silk, there's already lot of spider silk in Achaea. Silkworms need some love too.  Also, a puzzling amount of said spider silk looks and behaves exactly like traditional silk except with more words like 'gossamer' attached. Which brings me to my next Thing to Avoid...

     

    5. Describing things you are ignorant about. This took me a couple years of designing to figure out (probably longer than it should have), but research is key. Achaea gives us lots of chances to create beautiful things that are too expensive, exotic, or both to figure into our real lives. But unless those items just don't exist in real life, it's on the designer to make sure the descriptions are accurate.

     

    For context, here's a bit of story-time. My wake-up call was when I was designing a suit jacket for someone on commission. I wanted to use a blend of cashmere and silk, mainly because -everything- in Achaea seemed to be silk and I was both enamored and bored with it. I wrote up a draft description based on what I thought this material looked and felt like. By pure chance, I was on vacation at the time in a city where one of the tourist attractions was a silk district. I took a notebook with me to go see it, and one of the silk weavers generously let me take notes on her material. She even pointed out different fabrics to me, including a cashmere/silk blend, and let me feel samples.

     

    My concept of what that fabric looked and felt like was completely wrong. I scrapped most of my description and started again. If I'd kept the original description, it almost certainly would've gotten approved. I'm pretty sure the Garden has better things to do than look up the texture of specific fabric blends. But it would have been a far inferior product.

     

    If you just -can't- find sufficient information on a specific material or style, consider using something different that you can find information on.


    ________________________
    The soul of Ashmond says, "Always with the sniping."
    AdaRyzanGarnerHalos
  • LennLenn Member Posts: 210 ✭✭✭ - Distinguished
    If you're describing inanimate objects, I think you should just accept passive voice makes sense.

    This isn't to say you should overuse it, but I think a number of your points could be tl;dr down to "don't overuse things."
  • RiellRiell Member Posts: 209 ✭✭✭ - Distinguished
    Ugh.

    A filthy heathen just inspired me to finally do my custom weapons.

    It's okay, I'll just have to kill you with them.
    JiraishinHalos
  • HalosHalos San FranciscoMember Posts: 1,456 @@ - Legendary Achaean
    Jiraishin said:

    3. Calling things 'simple' or 'subtle' when they aren't. This is a pet peeve of mine. I know there is an element of subjectivity here, but if you have a piece of silk with a detailed scene embroidered on it in purple and gold, it is neither simple nor subtle. Think carefully about the adjectives you use and if they actually fit the item you're describing.

    YES YES YES

    Also anything trying very hard to be two opposite descriptors at once. 

    JiraishinAralaya
  • AralayaAralaya Member Posts: 1,224 @ - Epic Achaean
    Halos said:
    Jiraishin said:

    3. Calling things 'simple' or 'subtle' when they aren't. This is a pet peeve of mine. I know there is an element of subjectivity here, but if you have a piece of silk with a detailed scene embroidered on it in purple and gold, it is neither simple nor subtle. Think carefully about the adjectives you use and if they actually fit the item you're describing.

    YES YES YES

    Also anything trying very hard to be two opposite descriptors at once. 

    I don’t recall where I saw it, but it was soft obsidian... obsidian is a rock, it’s not soft.


    Tecton-Today at 6:17 PM

    teehee b.u.t.t. pirates
  • PyoriPyori Member Posts: 1,318 @ - Epic Achaean
    edited December 2018
    Aralaya said:
    I don’t recall where I saw it, but it was soft obsidian... obsidian is a rock, it’s not soft.
    Obsidian is soft, though... Are you just taking the fact it's formed from rock, and leaving it as that? Because compared to other rocks, it very much is soft. It's also not technically a rock. It's volcanic glass.

    Lenn
  • JiraishinJiraishin trapped in a thawing block of iceMember Posts: 1,586 @@ - Legendary Achaean
    edited December 2018
    Aralaya said:
    Halos said:
    Jiraishin said:

    3. Calling things 'simple' or 'subtle' when they aren't. This is a pet peeve of mine. I know there is an element of subjectivity here, but if you have a piece of silk with a detailed scene embroidered on it in purple and gold, it is neither simple nor subtle. Think carefully about the adjectives you use and if they actually fit the item you're describing.

    YES YES YES

    Also anything trying very hard to be two opposite descriptors at once. 

    I don’t recall where I saw it, but it was soft obsidian... obsidian is a rock, it’s not soft.
    There are actually soft rocks . 
    Obsidian is not one of them.
    @Pyori, obsidian takes a sharper edge than steel (though it is also more brittle).This is why it's still used to tip some modern scalpels. 
    ________________________
    The soul of Ashmond says, "Always with the sniping."
  • AralayaAralaya Member Posts: 1,224 @ - Epic Achaean
    Obsidian ranks at 5 on the Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness.
    Steel is a 4.5.


    Tecton-Today at 6:17 PM

    teehee b.u.t.t. pirates
    Halos
  • PyoriPyori Member Posts: 1,318 @ - Epic Achaean
    edited December 2018
    Jiraishin said:
    @Pyori, obsidian takes a sharper edge than steel (though it is also more brittle).This is why it's still used to tip some modern scalpels. 
    I'm aware of its capabilities.
    I also said compared to other rocks it is, indeed, soft. It's a 5 on Moh's scale, which goes up to 10. There's a lot of things that it's softer than, hence 'comparatively'. Harder than steel, sure, it can be... But so can a lot of things.
    It's still not technically a rock, though.

  • JiraishinJiraishin trapped in a thawing block of iceMember Posts: 1,586 @@ - Legendary Achaean
    @pyori I don't want to get into an argument, but if a substance is harder than steel "softer than" may be accurate but "soft" should be reconsidered. 
    ________________________
    The soul of Ashmond says, "Always with the sniping."
  • PyoriPyori Member Posts: 1,318 @ - Epic Achaean
    Jiraishin said:
    @pyori I don't want to get into an argument, but if a substance is harder than steel "softer than" may be accurate but "soft" should be reconsidered. 
    I didn't say at a baseline it's soft. I said compared to others, it is. Read the rest of what I said, and not just the first four words.

  • JiraishinJiraishin trapped in a thawing block of iceMember Posts: 1,586 @@ - Legendary Achaean
    ... I did. They don't cancel out the first four words  
    ________________________
    The soul of Ashmond says, "Always with the sniping."
  • TorinnTorinn Member Posts: 1,069 ✭✭✭✭✭ - Grand Achaean
    @Pyori saying "Obsidian is soft, though... " Is wrong then, by your own admission.  Don't say things that you don't mean, unless you're intentionally trying to be contrary (which you are obviously).  Can we get all these deleted cuz this thread is too good for these comments.
    Deucalion says, "Torinn is quite nice."
  • LaedhaLaedha Member Posts: 131 ✭✭✭ - Distinguished
    edited December 2018
    Instead of suggesting students look for passive voice specifically, I have them look for all helping verbs and see which ones they can substitute. Helping verbs are easy to identify and students end up with clearer and more concise writing. In achaean crafting, people find more interesting verbs when they stop using boring phrases like "is formed" and "has been sewn."   

    I don't think passive voice is 100% terrible, avoid at all costs, it's just usually not the best construction.  
    JiraishinTorinn
  • MelodieMelodie Port Saint Lucie, FloridaMember Posts: 4,935 @@ - Legendary Achaean
    The 'avoid passive voice at all cost' is actually good advice, as the admin don't allow it for higher-grade descriptions - most notably, room descriptions in the real world. Back when I was working on the Lumeni chapel for Cyrene, I worked directly with Phaestus, who knocked that habit out of me hard (though it took a while). It's creeped up a little in recent times since I'm occasionally lazy, but if you intend to continue designing in Achaea for a long time, it's better (and easier) to kick the habit as soon as possible.
    "You have had an extraordinary adventure, my dear. Extraordinary! One that few people could ever imagine. Treasure it. Keep it safe and secure, tucked away in some special place in your heart. 

    But... don't spend the rest of your days chasing a ghost."
  • TorinnTorinn Member Posts: 1,069 ✭✭✭✭✭ - Grand Achaean
    Accuracy is key unless you're okay with people misconstruing what you mean.  Saying "soft obsidian" goes against conventional wisdom, so needs explanation.  An accurate statement would be to compare it directly to another, or qualify it.
    Deucalion says, "Torinn is quite nice."
  • DupreDupre M.Member Posts: 282 ✭✭✭ - Distinguished
    You're missing

    Know your UK English ahead of time.
    https://www.achaea.com/banner/caiges.jpg
    Jiraishin
  • JiraishinJiraishin trapped in a thawing block of iceMember Posts: 1,586 @@ - Legendary Achaean
    Dupre said:
    You're missing

    Know your UK English ahead of time.
    That actually falls under "things that will keep your design from being approved", which is outside the scope of this thread. 
    ________________________
    The soul of Ashmond says, "Always with the sniping."
  • MinifieMinifie Member Posts: 2,149 @@ - Legendary Achaean
    edited December 2018
    The harder a metal, the more difficult it is to refine to a state of usability. Diamond swords would be a fucking nightmare to make, while obsidian and steel are hard enough to retain a solid form while soft enough to mold nicely to the form you want. You’d not have soft obsidian as a blade, but a fiery globe containing softened obsidian isn’t out of the realm of possibility. 

    Of course, what we should probably disect more is alloys, since combination of metals will yield something a frightfully load more durable than pure metals, and still, “soft/hard” only applies when considering the state it is in, I’d rather see a soft obsidian item than a sword of chromium, because chromium be brittle, yo!


    (Mhaldor's Next Top Model): Taryius says, "Oops, thats not a foray. Thats two novices going at it in the wilderness."
  • SenaSena Member Posts: 3,954 @@ - Legendary Achaean
    Minifie said:
    a fiery globe containing softened obsidian isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
    The word there would be "melted", not "softened". Heating it up until it's no longer solid is the only way you're going to get obsidian that could be called soft.
  • MinifieMinifie Member Posts: 2,149 @@ - Legendary Achaean
    Sena said:
    Minifie said:
    a fiery globe containing softened obsidian isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
    The word there would be "melted", not "softened". Heating it up until it's no longer solid is the only way you're going to get obsidian that could be called soft.
    Well, yes, but you can use soft in descriptors with melted obsidian, but my greater point was that’s somewhere I could see “soft obsidian” being ok, not in weapons or left at outside temperature.


    (Mhaldor's Next Top Model): Taryius says, "Oops, thats not a foray. Thats two novices going at it in the wilderness."
  • AralayaAralaya Member Posts: 1,224 @ - Epic Achaean
    Minifie said:
    Sena said:
    Minifie said:
    a fiery globe containing softened obsidian isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
    The word there would be "melted", not "softened". Heating it up until it's no longer solid is the only way you're going to get obsidian that could be called soft.
    Well, yes, but you can use soft in descriptors with melted obsidian, but my greater point was that’s somewhere I could see “soft obsidian” being ok, not in weapons or left at outside temperature.
    Yes but when it’s soft, it’s lava... so.


    Tecton-Today at 6:17 PM

    teehee b.u.t.t. pirates
  • PyoriPyori Member Posts: 1,318 @ - Epic Achaean
    edited December 2018
    Minifie said:
    The harder a metal, the more difficult it is to refine to a state of usability. Diamond swords would be a fucking nightmare to make, while obsidian and steel are hard enough to retain a solid form while soft enough to mold nicely to the form you want. You’d not have soft obsidian as a blade, but a fiery globe containing softened obsidian isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
    Neither diamond, nor obsidian, are metals. Forging doesn't apply to them. Melting obsidian just turns it into molten glass, and melting diamond just vaporises it. Although diamond has a melting point that's ~3x steel. So GL with that.
    This guy did a good video on it, actually.


  • MinifieMinifie Member Posts: 2,149 @@ - Legendary Achaean
    Pyori said:
    Minifie said:
    The harder a metal, the more difficult it is to refine to a state of usability. Diamond swords would be a fucking nightmare to make, while obsidian and steel are hard enough to retain a solid form while soft enough to mold nicely to the form you want. You’d not have soft obsidian as a blade, but a fiery globe containing softened obsidian isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
    Neither diamond, nor obsidian, are metals. Forging doesn't apply to them. Melting obsidian just turns it into molten glass, and melting diamond just vaporises it. Although diamond has a melting point that's ~3x steel. So GL with that.
    This guy did a good video on it, actually.

    I mean, that’s also for suspension of reality in a game if people wanted to use it. Actual obsidian isn’t going to give you a weapon, but in a game with glass swords and shields that don’t break I assumed it would be fine. I’ll watch the video though when I’m not on my phone though, afaik you can’t use glass in alloys anyway.


    (Mhaldor's Next Top Model): Taryius says, "Oops, thats not a foray. Thats two novices going at it in the wilderness."
  • LennLenn Member Posts: 210 ✭✭✭ - Distinguished
    Why's he so much better at smelting than I am?!
  • AralayaAralaya Member Posts: 1,224 @ - Epic Achaean
    Obsidian has been used for weapons historically, just not cast obsidian.


    Tecton-Today at 6:17 PM

    teehee b.u.t.t. pirates
    Jiraishin
  • PyoriPyori Member Posts: 1,318 @ - Epic Achaean
    edited December 2018
    Minifie said:
    Actual obsidian isn’t going to give you a weapon
    Uh. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macuahuitl Probably one of the most dangerous close-combat weapons were made from obsidian. My point wasn't about making weapons out of it, it's that you don't forge weapons out of it. You knap it.
    Spears, knives, arrowhead have all been made from it as well. As Jir said, it can get incredibly sharp. But it's also brittle and obviously not meant to be used for cutting trees down etc.

«1
Sign In to Comment.